XI Conclusions: Chelsea 1-0 Barcelona
By Chris Wright
1. One shot, one goal. It don’t get more efficient than that boyo!
2. The heady mix of Chelsea’s deep-set tactics and Barca’s penchant for swarming on the edge of their opponent’s penalty area pretty much forced John Terry and Gary Cahill into putting in colossal displays in central defence and boy did they do just that. Both defended like kings for the duration.
3. Let’s not kid ourselves. If Barca had been a tad more ruthless/lucky they’d have been two or three goals up within the first half-an-hour. If only Cesc didn’t have a nerveless hock of ham at the bottom of his left leg, eh? Chelsea may well have ‘had a plan’ (as Frank Lampard insisted after the game) but they also rode their luck to the point of indecency. Thankfully, the footballing gods were with them and they came out smelling of roses.
4. Ashley Cole had his best game in months. He was up and down that touchline all night like a particularly pacey and well-aspirated tractor. Maybe a top-of-the-line Massey Ferguson? He and the equally mobile Ramires nullified Dani Alves for the majority of the game, stifling one of Barca’s key attacking thoroughfares and getting in behind the Brazilian full-back on several occasions – including the goal.
5. Didier Drogba led the line like a little girl manfully. His grovelling quickly became utterly nauseating to those watching on, but that wasn’t the point. It was obviously a pre-approved tactic for him to disrupt the play as often as possible; diving, feigning, etc – and he stuck to his designated role with vim and vigour. Nothing funny about the kick in the perineum from Mascherano though, that looked bloody painful.
6. Can you just imagine what the scoreline would’ve been had David Luiz played?
7. Not to take anything away from Chelsea, but it seemed that Barca played at somewhere hovering around 70% after conceding. Safe in the knowledge that they’ll be given another crack at Roberto Di Matteo’s side in a week’s time, and that a one-goal deficit will not be insurmountable, maybe Saturday’s El Clasico became a more pressing concern as the night wore on and breaking down Chelsea’s sturdy defence became increasingly energy-sapping?
8. John Terry became the latest Premier League footballer to struggle with the simple concept of a handshake…
9. Frank Lampard and Raul Meireles did a fine job without touching the ball so much as 10 times between them all evening. Both had their panties pulled down a couple of times in terms of being rushed and technically flustered by Barcelona’s nippy midfielders, but Lamps and Meirels remained incredibly disciplined while not in possession – staying deep and narrow to clog Barca’s passing arteries. Christ, even Obi Mikel did his bit.
10. They may be flagging somewhat, and a concerted league campaign may be gradually getting beyond them, but on a one-off big game basis, Chelsea definitely have the players at their disposal to win. Seeing lone frontman Drogba barking out defensive/positional orders, moving his pawns this way and that before a late Barca set-piece neatly summed up the value of both his and the rest of his veteran colleagues’ collated experience.
11. Despite the two overwhelming favourites for the final having suffered minor set-backs in the first legs of their respective semis, don’t you just have the nagging suspicion that we’re still staring down the barrel of an all-Spanish Champions League final this year?